At long last, Cory and Eva Cannon see the light at the end of the tunnel – Rockwall City council voted 6-1 Monday night to approve the Cannons’ Specific Use Permit to establish Siren Rock Brewery near downtown Rockwall, with Councilman Bennie Daniels dissenting.
The conflict over the permit issuance comes in the wake of the Cannons’ several months of work with city staff and the council, attempting to ease some of the concerns held primarily by Daniels and Mayor Jim Pruitt.
The Cannons, who first had to seek a zoning ordinance change at the Planning and Zoning Commission and City Council alike, had been clear all along regarding the brewery’s proposed location – a patch of sloping property directly across Goliad Street from City Hall. While the zoning change was passed by the commission and council with little issue, the couple was shocked when Planning and Zoning denied the SUP three weeks ago, when Pruitt showed up to the meeting and voiced his concerns directly to the commissioners.
Restrictions added to SUP
In the last two weeks of negotiations between the Cannons, their attorney and city officials, a number of changes to the SUP application were worked out, giving the mayor a more comfortable sense of control over the potential future of the property.
Added to the SUP’s restrictions are:
- Prohibiting the on-site production of liquor
- Ensuring grain silos are screened from visibility from Goliad Street
- Regular hours limited to 10 p.m.
- The ability of the council or a future council to review the SUP in the event of a change of ownership
- Prohibiting outside music prior to 6 p.m. on certain patriotic holidays, due to the nearby cemetery
At Monday’s council meeting, Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Johnny Lyons spoke to the commission’s earlier decision, defending it in the face of significant public criticism.
“I don’t personally have an issue with a brewery in the downtown area,” Lyons said. “My issue always has been and still is the location – it’s on a downhill slope and on a curve.”
An earlier community member had remarked that any business to build on that property would have traffic issues, to which Lyons responded that, while true, not every business will also virtually guarantee that most of its leaving customers will have imbibed some amount of alcohol.
Praise for Cannons
Daniels, who has made no pretense about his opposition to a downtown brewery since the Cannons’ application process began early this year, also defended the Planning and Zoning Commission’s decision, saying that though the Cannon’s presentations included their proposed location, “a specific location should not have been and was not considered at the hearing for the ordinance change.”
“This has been one of the most agonizing issues in my time on the council,” Daniels said, “but I sincerely appreciate the efforts made by the Cannons to work with the city and with some of the concerns we’ve had.”
Attorney notes economic benefits of breweries
Lorne Liechty, former Mayor of Heath and attorney for the Cannons in this matter, also championed the cause during the public hearing, emphasizing that the “purpose of the brewery is to brew beer, not to operate a bar.”
Liechty additionally explained that craft or micro-breweries, a fast-growing business sector nationwide, have had a $4.5 billion impact on the Texas economy, presenting potential tax revenues and community benefits that Rockwall would do well to engage.
“My clients only have a desire to be good citizens, and to do what’s best for Rockwall and the Downtown area,” Liechty added.
Voting in favor, with concern
Pruitt did not pass up on the chance to once again voice his opposition, ideally, to the brewery, though he ultimately voted in favor.
“The only problem I have with that location is that entrance to downtown,” Pruitt said. “All those mom and pop stores you used to see downtown – what have they all turned into? They’ve all received alcohol permits to be able to sell beer and wine right out of their little stores.”
Pruitt went on to posit that the growth of downtown alcohol sales is because, simply, alcohol sells, but questioned what Rockwall’s priorities should be in the matter.
“We have to decide if this is a deal where we’ll do whatever, revenue-wise, because that’s what our surrounding cities have done,” Pruitt said. “I, for one, think Rockwall should be unique.”
My number one goal (in negotiating changes to the SUP) is making sure this doesn’t become a bar – that we don’t get another Scoreboard in town.”
With this approval as the SUP’s first reading at council without being tabled, the issue will be revisited in the August 20 meeting’s consent agenda, though nothing is expected to change between now and then.